Women’s health needs aren’t the same as men’s — and employers are taking notice. More and more organizations are ready to invest in robust women’s health benefits packages. But with so many new and changing options, it can be hard to know which benefits provide the best support to employees and the best value to employers.
This guide will help you make sense of the main types of offerings, understand how they support women, and see how to put the pieces together into a meaningful benefits package.
Women’s health fundamentals
The six pillars of women’s health benefits are rooted in the main areas of women’s health. With each priority, benefits can play an integral part in establishing and maintaining optimal care.
To start, let’s consider the main areas of women’s health, and the benefits that address each key area.
1. Reproductive health
This pillar encompasses everything from general health tracking to help with period pain. It also includes support for painful conditions, such as PCOS and endometriosis, which can impact daily life and fertility.
As a category, reproductive health is notoriously neglected — partly because it can be hard to talk about. The stigma around women’s bodies, and even issues as common as menstruation, means that many women avoid asking questions at the doctor’s office. And when they do ask, they may find that their concerns are minimized or dismissed as ‘all in their heads.’
When patients’ pain is dismissed, their medical diagnoses are impacted, too. For example, it takes an average of 8 to 12 years for a woman to receive an official diagnosis of endometriosis — a condition that presents with severe pain and heavy periods. In a survey of women diagnosed with endometriosis, 60 percent said they’d been told by at least one doctor along the way that nothing was wrong.1
Employers can help women navigate reproductive health with benefits that offer education and support. For example, a digital health solution can help women track their health, research symptoms and conditions, access experts when they have questions, and find a community of support for managing conditions and advocating for care.
2. Fertility health
Among the benefits for women’s health, fertility is probably the most well-known. Fertility benefits often cover assisted reproductive technologies (ART) and other family-building paths, including:
- In vitro fertilization (IVF)
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
Coverage may also include fertility testing and diagnosis of fertility issues.
The best fertility health benefits also include coaching to help people conceive without ART treatments, if possible. This can lower costs and help avoid the health risks that come with ART, including a higher rate of multiple gestations. (Births of multiples have a higher risk for health complications and can be up to 20 times more expensive than singleton births.2)
Fertility benefits may be offered in partnership with a full network, or as a separate benefit through a third-party administrator. Some organizations choose to reimburse employees up to a specific dollar amount, or to cover a set number of treatments.
3. Maternity health
Maternity care management benefits include digital or in-person services to help pregnant people manage health concerns during pregnancy and address issues early. Programs can include access to telehealth services or digital coaches.
Overall, this type of women’s health benefit is increasingly vital for employers to offer. Maternity care is some of the most expensive, and risky, in the US today. Some reports estimate in the US, payers and families spend a whopping $75.8 billion on maternal and postpartum health each year.3 Plus, new reports from the CDC have also indicated that 4 out of every 5 pregnancy-related deaths in the US were preventable.4
Digital solutions can help educate users about healthy pregnancies and their personal risks, allow them to track their health, and help them prevent or catch health issues by advocating for the care they need.
4. Postpartum mental health
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) are probably more common than you think: one in seven women experience a PMAD during pregnancy and the year following birth. But it’s a pillar many benefits plans overlook, and many women go undiagnosed and untreated.5
The cost of PMADs is high — an estimated $14 billion for the 2017 birth cohort from conception to five years postpartum, with an average cost of $31,800 for each affected mother-child dyad.6 And when mothers are impacted by mental health challenges, their performance at work may suffer, impacting employers as well.
The best postpartum benefits can make a difference by helping to catch and treat PMADs early. Important elements include regular digital screenings for mood disorders and access to experts who can help people find support as soon as it’s needed.
5. Breast health
Every 14 seconds, someone is diagnosed with breast cancer.7 Preventative screenings can help women catch and treat issues early, which can and save lives.
Breast health benefits educate women about their risk factors and encourage timely screenings.
6. Advanced women’s health
Even though it’s a natural process, perimenopause and menopause can come with symptoms, such as hot flashes and sleep disturbances, that make it hard to manage work and everyday life. But much like women’s reproductive health in general, secrecy and stigma around menopause (and around aging in general) make it difficult for women to seek the support they need.
According to studies of Ovia Health users, women suffering from menopause symptoms have 57 percent more days of lost work productivity and $2,100 in additional costs per year for healthcare and absenteeism. Menopause support can have a positive effect in helping women manage their care.
A good digital solution can educate people about menopause, allow them to track their health, help them know when to seek help for symptoms, and provide access to experts for guidance.
Building a better benefits package for women
The best women’s health benefits package is one that covers all of the key pillars of women’s health, or as many as possible.
It’s also important to know that, if you’re choosing among benefits, some offer far more value together. For example, fertility benefits are best coupled with maternity support. That’s because the use of ART can increase the risk of expensive complications, including preterm and multiple births. When you couple fertility and maternity care, women in these higher-risk categories can learn about their unique risks and discover which screenings they need to stay healthy and catch potential problems earlier — when they are easier, and less expensive, to treat.
Here are a few more things to consider as you put together a meaningful and cost-effective women’s benefits package:
- Choose a digital health solution so it’s convenient, accessible to everyone, and easy to use whenever it’s needed.
- Opt for a preventative approach that uses data and personalization to educate women about their unique risk factors to help prevent health issues or catch them early.Look for a personalized program that can adapt to each individual and evolve to meet their needs. Each user should get timely, relevant support — such as a reminder to get a health screening on time, a mental-health check-in postpartum, or access to a human coach when a question might feel hard to raise at the doctor’s office.
- Ensure a connection back to a user’s OB GYN or primary care provider. Telehealth solutions can offer medical guidance quickly, but they can also create gaps in care. A user may get quick advice to resolve a symptom, but never reconnect with their provider to determine if the symptom is part of a larger health issue. A personalized system, with data at the center, can put symptoms in context and refer members to their provider for needed follow-up.
Want to know more? Ovia can help.
Ovia Health, a Labcorp subsidiary, has served more than 17 million family and parenthood journeys since 2012 and is on a mission to make a happy, healthy family possible for everyone. Ovia Health is the only family health solution clinically proven to effectively identify and intervene with high-risk conditions. The company’s 50+ clinical programs, including predictive coaching and personalized care plans, help prevent unnecessary health care costs, improve health outcomes, and foster a family-friendly workplace that increases retention and return to work. For more information, visit OviaHealth.com.
1: The Alliance for Endometriosis: https://www.allianceforendo.com/
2: American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology: https://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(13)01043-0/fulltext
3: Dyck, Kenney, Oogan, Toomer, 2012
5: American Journal of Public Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7204436/
6: American Journal of Public Health: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32298167/
7: Breast Cancer Research Foundation: https://www.bcrf.org/breast-cancer-statistics-and-resources/